As part of the University of Sheffield’s Natural History Society I’m often helping run walks around the Peak district, always taking my camera along just in case something interesting pops up. But trudging around the Derbyshire hills with a bunch of students isn’t really the best way to get close to wildlife, and I always find landscape photography a much more of a solitary affair, so often my camera doesn’t leave my bag very often.
We walked from the village of Tideswell and met the river Wye around the Cressbrook area, meeting a pond with lots of ducks on, a few of the other walkers got their cameras out, so I decided to do the same. It would seem a waste to lug around a DSLR and a couple of lenses with out grabbing a few shots at least! The mallards were making it pretty clear that spring was on its way; sexed up brightly coloured drakes chased after the mostly unreceptive dowdy females. Conversation among us Biology and Zoology students quickly turned to one of the lectures we had last year all about the exciting, and unexpected, world of sexual conflict in mallard ducks. Gang rape, explosive spiraling erections, convoluted vaginas and all manner of other dramatic things go on in the secret lives of these otherwise unassuming birds. A mallards sex life would put a Hollyoaks character to shame… google it!
We were soon surrounded with towering 30+ ft cliffs that had been formed by the meandering river, wispy clouds kept letting little bursts of light rain out over us and the already swollen river. As we approached a more wooded area of the valley a walker coming in the opposite direction, with a big smile on his face, pointed out in surprise a grey heron huddled behind a tree! The heron wondered across our path and then dipped into the river and began wading gracefully upstream. Of course it didn’t take long for us on the walk with big lenses to descend on this handsome bird. For being a country bird, I was surprised by how close it would let us get, I would expect this of birds in the city but not out here; but then much of the peaks isn’t really much of a wilderness anymore anyway! Spits of rain began falling from the sky again, coupled with glimmers of sunshine gave a golden rippled backdrop for a portrait of this debonair bird.
He slinked away from us down the river allowing us to gradually follow him as he casually hunted for fish, always keeping one of his big yellow eyes on us. Branches and trees got in the way much of the time, but I managed to grab this shot from a bridge that crossed the river upstream from the heron. Soon after this I think he must have gotten a bit fed up with a bunch of geeky students gawking at him, so he spread his wings and flew off in that bouncy way only a heron can.